Westminster City Council Planning Committee
Jubilee Sports Centre demolition and redevelopment proposal: Objection
I have a number of concerns about the overall Jubilee/Moberly package, which I believe are broadly shared by many of the residents who signed a petition against the Jubilee closure, and the majority of those who attended a public meeting at the Beethoven centre on January 16th.
It is also fair to point out that there are also residents who are positive about the scheme, believing that it will offer improved leisure and sporting facilities.
My main concerns are:
a. The loss of leisure amenity for Queen's Park residents
b. The lack of affordable housing on both the Moberly and Jubilee sites- which I believe cannot be justified by reference to the costs of the new sports centre, especially given the value of new property sales in the area.
c. Reduced accessibility and possible impact on local Queen's Park streets from additional parking demands`
a) The loss of leisure amenity for Queen's Park residents
Whilst the new centre on the Moberly will re-provision what is currently within the Jubilee, including the swimming pool, the well-used football pitch has been re-located to another part of the borough, representing a significant loss of open-air amenity for local residents; and particularly casual users of the pitch such as young people without the means to pay for pre-booked provision. In addition, many young people from the Queen's Park/Mozart area will be put off from using the St Augustine's facility by the distance and the fact that the straight route cuts through the South Kilburn estate, where there has been a history of gang tensions.
The basketball court adjoining the Jubilee will be lost with no current plans for replacement. Both the Moberly five-a-side pitches and the basketball court are open-air facilities, which should be preserved locally as a balance to the indoor leisure provision on the Moberly site/Jubilee hall.
I welcome the concession of a new hall on the Jubilee site, but this only goes part of the way to addressing the problem- it is indoors, it will require care-taking and management (which, as of now, are uncosted and not provided for), and it is therefore questionable as to whether it can guarantee affordable/free provision for the local community, such as replacing the basketball court.
b) The absence of affordable housing
I have raised this issue with Brent, in respect of the Moberly:
"I note that Brent's policy is that " Where less than 50 per cent affordable housing is proposed, the application must be accompanied by a financial appraisal which demonstrates that the proposal represents the maximum viable proportion of affordable housing". Obviously, the fact that Wilmott Dixon/Westminster Council's plans include the re-provisioning of the sports centre means that the overall formula would be varied significantly. However, I and my council colleagues are unconvinced by the business case which indicates that Wilmott Dixon must only build market homes for sale in order to finance the new development. This is especially in light of the market prices being asked for in other local developments (such as Amberley Road, W9, where the developer is marketing 1 bed homes for £850,000). At the public meeting, Councillor Paul dimoldenberg called for the ‘books to be opened' so we can have an honest discussion about the feasibility of the overall housing/leisure package"
These arguments also hold in respect of the Jubilee site. which proposes the construction of 20 townhouses and 64 apartments. Not only are none of the additional (non-replacement) properties ‘affordable', the replacement of the Genesis properties due for demolition involves a further reduction in the number of homes at a genuinely affordable, social rent.
Westminster Council has revealed in response to a Freedom of Information request that £111 million has been spent since 2010 on emergency accommodation in response to the pressures of homelessness. Over and above this, the Council is failing to meet its pledge on reducing over-crowding, and there is a shortage of supply of intermediate accommodation for lower and middle income workers. The demand for affordable housing is overwhelming, and I believe that the business model underpinning the housing/sports centre replacement could sustain more affordable homes on site.
In any event, the Council has a substantial Affordable Housing Fund which could be invested wherever the opportunity to provide new affordable homes arises. As Queen's Park remains one of the areas within the borough where homes can be constructed at the lowest cost, there can be no real arguments against providing affordable homes on site.
c) Accessibility, parking and transport
The Jubilee Sports Centre is well located in the heart of the community, bringing footfall into the centre of Queen's Park, which many feel contributes to community safety. Many people feel that the Jubilee is the ‘heart' of the ward and there will be a significant change in the dynamic of the area when it disappears. There are some residents who would prefer the replacement with residential units as well (although these include residents who object to the size and style of these), but I believe it is fair to say the majority view is critical.
The new, larger sports centre on the Moberly site is being promoted as offering leisure facilities to attract users from a wider area (from within Westminster, Brent and elsewhere). It has been argued that the existing facilities are under-used, so the intention is explicitly to increase the number of users on the new site. This is almost certain to increase parking demands within the Queen's Park estate, as more people have to travel further to use the centre, and to increase traffic pressure on what is already a busy set of junctions and corners around Kilburn Lane/Chamberlayne Road.
I would be very grateful if you could bring these comments to the attention of the Planning Committee.